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Has There Been an 'Annalise Effect' in Irish Sailing?

16th January 2018
Annalise has played an ambassador role for sailing since her win. Here she is back sailing on Dublin Bay after her medal win Annalise has played an ambassador role for sailing since her win. Here she is back sailing on Dublin Bay after her medal win Credit: Terry McDonagh

With every great win comes a ripple effect. Annalise Murphy’s silver medal in sailing at the Rio Olympics in 2016 was good news for the country, for sport, and the sailing community in general. But how has the bounce been felt one year on?

President of Irish Sailing, Jack Roy commented “it’s interesting to look at the figures to see what impact, if any, Annalise’s medal has had on increasing awareness of sailing or attracting new people to our sport. We know that Olympic medals increase people’s enthusiasm for trying out a new sport, boxing and rowing being prime examples and it appears from our figures at the end of 2017 that there certainly has been a very positive effect that can be attributed to Annalise’s success in Rio”

More people sailing

As you’d expect, there’s been a bounce in the number of people sailing around the country. The Irish Sailing’s “Try Sailing” programme which encourages clubs and training centres to create opportunities and events for new sailors, saw a distinct rise this summer, with 5,816 people attending events. That’s a 61% increase on the 2016 numbers. Interestingly half of the sailors were female, and 57% were under 18. There’s an anticipated boost to club membership too of about 5%, but these figures won’t be concrete until the end of 2018.

But there are other ways in which the Annalise effect can be seen.

annalise Murphy St Patrick's day paradeAnnalise Murphy prepares for her St. Patrick's Day Parade role

Ambassador role 

Annalise has played an ambassador role for sailing since her win. She’s been out and about, visiting her old schools, Grand Marshalling the St Patrick’s Day parade, appearing on TV, radio and podcasts, and working with Irish Sailing and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council visiting school children. All of which raise the profile of sailing and encourage a non-traditional audience to get out onto the water.

Third level recognise high-performance sailors

Some of the main universities, as a direct result of the Olympic medal and the corresponding increased awareness of sailing, have reassessed the way they view high performance athletes, and are allowing them to lengthen their degree programmes and award scholarships. For the Irish Sailing Performance Pathway athletes, this is a huge boost. By extending degree programmes, athletes can dedicate more time to their sporting careers whilst balancing that with the need to accomplish other life and career goals. UCD recently awarded Liam Glynn an Ad Astra scholarship. UCC have given three scholarships to Fionn Lyden, Seafra Guilfoyle and Mark Hassett. UCC also support Johnny Durcan on a pre-university programme which offers access to sports services and facilities. Aisling Keller, Aoife Hopkins and Sean Donnelly received sports scholarships from Trinity College Dublin this week.

Annalise_murphy_sailing_dublin_bayAnnalise at full stretch on Dublin Bay. Photo: Terry McDonagh

Young women in sailing given a boost

And what about the young women who are competing competitively in sailing – what effect did Annalise’s win have on them ? Annalise has been very open in saying that she felt she had limited natural talent, putting her success down to hard work and determination.

For Hannah Leonard, a Transition Year student who sails Optimists out of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dublin, Annalise’s achievement had a big impact. “I’ve often thought about giving up [sailing], but Annalise wasn’t good in an Optimist and it gives me hope that I could be better in a different boat like the Laser”.

For Ella May, a Laser sailor aged 16, the win has given her a boost: “when you see how close it is to home, it becomes real. When you see someone who trains where you train and come up through the ranks like you do, and experiencing what you do, I feel there’s more hope”.

For Michele Halpany who runs the 420 Class and also the junior sailors at the National Yacht Club in Dublin, Annalise is a great role model for the girls. “She’s friendly and down to earth, and it gives them a boost when they see her and chat to her. For her, the win “reinforces that girls can do just as well [in sailing]. It’s a level playing field”.

annalise_murphy_volvo_ocean_raceOn deck with the hard-working crew of Turn The Tide on Plastic — among them Annalise Murphy — at the Leg 1 start in Alicante Photo: Jen Edney/Volvo Ocean Race

A career in sailing

So if she is responsible for a bounce in people trying sailing this year, Annalise isn’t standing still. Her switch to off-shore sailing in the Volvo Ocean Race shows there’s life beyond the Olympics and that a career in sailing is possible.

If you’re interested in getting out onto the water but don’t know where to start, check out trysailing.ie

Published in Annalise Murphy
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Annalise Murphy, Olympic Silver Medalist

The National Yacht Club's Annalise Murphy (born 1 February 1990) is a Dublin Bay sailor who won a silver medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics. She is a native of Rathfarnham, a suburb of Dublin.

Murphy competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the Women's Laser Radial class. She won her first four days of sailing at the London Olympics and, on the fifth day, came in 8th and 19th position.

They were results that catapulted her on to the international stage but those within the tiny sport of Irish sailing already knew her of world-class capability in a breeze and were not surprised.

On the sixth day of the competition, she came 2nd and 10th and slipped down to second, just one point behind the Belgian world number one.

Annalise was a strong contender for the gold medal but in the medal race, she was overtaken on the final leg by her competitors and finished in 4th, her personal best at a world-class regatta and Ireland's best Olympic class result in 30 years.

Radial European Gold

Murphy won her first major medal at an international event the following year on home waters when she won gold at the 2013 European Sailing Championships on Dublin Bay.

Typically, her track record continues to show that she performs best in strong breezes that suit her large stature (height: 1.86 m Weight: 72 kg).

She had many international successes on her road to Rio 2016 but also some serious setbacks including a silver fleet finish in flukey winds at the world championships in the April of Olympic year itself.

Olympic Silver Medal

On 16 August 2016, Murphy won the silver medal in the Laser Radial at the 2016 Summer Olympics defying many who said her weight and size would go against her in Rio's light winds.

As Irish Times Sailing Correspondent David O'Brien pointed out: " [The medal] was made all the more significant because her string of consistent results was achieved in a variety of conditions, the hallmark of a great sailor. The medal race itself was a sailing master class by the Dubliner in some decidedly fickle conditions under Sugarloaf mountain".

It was true that her eight-year voyage ended with a silver lining but even then Murphy was plotting to go one better in Tokyo four years later.

Sportswoman of the Year

In December 2016, she was honoured as the Irish Times/Sport Ireland 2016 Sportswoman of the Year.

In March, 2017, Annalise Murphy was chosen as the grand marshal of the Dublin St Patrick's day parade in recognition of her achievement at the Rio Olympics.

She became the Female World Champion at the Moth Worlds in July 2017 in Italy but it came at a high price for the Olympic Silver medallist. A violent capsize in the last race caused her to sustain a knee injury which subsequent scans revealed to be serious. 

Volvo Ocean Race

The injury was a blow for her return to the Olympic Laser Radial discipline and she withdrew from the 2017 World Championships. But, later that August, to the surprise of many, Murphy put her Tokyo 2020 ambitions on hold for a Volvo Ocean Race crew spot and joined Dee Caffari’s new Turn the Tide On Plastic team that would ultimately finish sixth from seventh overall in a global circumnavigation odyssey.

Quits Radial for 49erFX

There were further raised eyebrows nine months later when, during a break in Volvo Ocean Race proceedings, in May 2018 Murphy announced she was quitting the Laser Radial dinghy and was launching a 49er FX campaign for Tokyo 2020. Critics said she had left too little time to get up to speed for Tokyo in a new double-handed class.

After a 'hugely challenging' fourteen months for Murphy and her crew Katie Tingle, it was decided after the 2019 summer season that their 'Olympic medal goal' was no longer realistic, and the campaign came to an end. Murphy saying in interviews “I guess the World Cup in Japan was a bit of a wakeup call for me, I was unable to see a medal in less than twelve months and that was always the goal".

The pair raced in just six major regattas in a six-month timeframe. 

Return to Radial

In September 2019, Murphy returned to the Laser Radial dinghy and lead a four-way trial for the Tokyo 2020 Irish Olympic spot after the first of three trials when she finished 12th at the Melbourne World Championships in February 2020.

Selection for Tokyo 2021

On June 11, Irish Sailing announced Annalise Murphy had been nominated in the Laser Radial to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021. Murphy secured the Laser Radial nomination after the conclusion of a cut short trials in which rivals Aoife Hopkins, Aisling Keller and Eve McMahon also competed.

Disappointment at Tokyo 2021

After her third Olympic Regatta, there was disappointment for Murphy who finished 18th overall in Tokyo. On coming ashore after the last race, she indicated her intention to return to studies and retire from Olympic sailing.  

On 6th Aguust 2020, Murphy wrote on Facebook:  "I am finally back home and it’s been a week since I finished racing, I have been lucky enough to experience the highs and the lows of the Olympics. I am really disappointed, I can’t pretend that I am not. I wasn’t good enough last week, the more mistakes I made the more I lost confidence in my decision making. Two years ago I made a plan to try and win a gold medal in the Radial, I believed that with my work ethic and attitude to learning, that everything would work out for me. It didn’t work out this time but I do believe that it’s worth dreaming of winning Olympic medals as I’m proof that it is possible, I also know how scary it is to try knowing you might not be good enough!
I am disappointed for Rory who has been my coach for 15 years, we’ve had some great times together and I wish I could have finished that on a high. I have so much respect for Olympic sailing coaches. They also have to dedicate their lives to getting to the games. I know I’ll always appreciate the impact Rory has had on my life as a person.
I am so grateful for the support I have got from my family and friends, I have definitely been selfish with my time all these years and I hope I can now make that up to you all! Thanks to Kate, Mark and Rónán for always having my back! Thank you to my sponsors for believing in me and supporting me. Thank you Tokyo for making these games happen! It means so much to the athletes to get this chance to do the Olympics.
I am not too sure what is next for me, I definitely don’t hate sailing which is a positive. I love this sport, even when it doesn’t love me 😂. Thank you everyone for all the kind words I am finally getting a chance to read!"

Annalise Murphy, Olympic Sailor FAQs

Annalise Murphy is Ireland’s best performing sailor at Olympic level, with a silver medal in the Laser Radial from Rio 2016.

Annalise Murphy is from Rathfarnham, a suburb in south Co Dublin with a population of some 17,000.

Annalise Murphy was born on 1 February 1990, which makes her 30 years old as of 2020.

Annalise Murphy’s main competition class is the Laser Radial. Annalise has also competed in the 49erFX two-handed class, and has raced foiling Moths at international level. In 2017, she raced around the world in the Volvo Ocean Race.

In May 2018, Annalise Murphy announced she was quitting the Laser Radial and launching a campaign for Tokyo 2020 in the 49erFX with friend Katie Tingle. The pairing faced a setback later that year when Tingle broke her arm during training, and they did not see their first competition until April 2019. After a disappointing series of races during the year, Murphy brought their campaign to an end in September 2019 and resumed her campaign for the Laser Radial.

Annalise Murphy is a longtime and honorary member of the National Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire.

Aside from her Olympic success, Annalise Murphy won gold at the 2013 European Sailing Championships on Dublin Bay.

So far Annalise Murphy has represented Ireland at two Olympic Games.

Annalise Murphy has one Olympic medal, a silver in the Women’s Laser Radial from Rio 2016.

Yes; on 11 June 2020, Irish Sailing announced Annalise Murphy had been nominated in the Women’s Laser Radial to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in 2021.

Yes; in December 2016, Annalise Murphy was honoured as the Irish Times/Sport Ireland 2016 Sportswoman of the Year. In the same year, she was also awarded Irish Sailor of the Year.

Yes, Annalise Murphy crewed on eight legs of the 2017-18 edition of The Ocean Race.

Annalise Murphy was a crew member on Turn the Tide on Plastic, skippered by British offshore sailor Dee Caffari.

Annalise Murphy’s mother is Cathy McAleavy, who competed as a sailor in the 470 class at the Olympic Games in Seoul in 1988.

Annalise Murphy’s father is Con Murphy, a pilot by profession who is also an Olympic sailing race official.

Annalise Murphy trains under Irish Sailing Performance head coach Rory Fitzpatrick, with whom she also prepared for her silver medal performance in Rio 2016.

Annalise Murphy trains with the rest of the team based at the Irish Sailing Performance HQ in Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

Annalise Murphy height is billed as 6 ft 1 in, or 183cm.

©Afloat 2020

At A Glance – Annalise Murphy Significant Results

2016: Summer Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Silver

2013: European Championships, Dublin, Ireland – Gold

2012: Summer Olympics, London, UK – 4th

2011: World Championships, Perth, Australia – 6th

2010: Skandia Sail for Gold regatta – 10th

2010: Became the first woman to win the Irish National Championships.

2009: World Championships – 8th

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